Guide to dark roast coffee and all that you want to know about it, the roasting, origin, flavor, and dark roast coffee characteristics.
Those who are familiar with coffee drinking have probably heard of dark roast coffee. This rich-colored, bittersweet, caramelized coffee variant is a staple of espressos and cappuccinos and is favored among Europeans and popular worldwide. But what exactly are the traits of dark roast coffee, and how is it produced? This article will break down dark roast coffees and their types, flavors, and production methods.
What Is Dark Roast Coffee?
Dark roast coffee is a coffee variant that is the result of heating green coffee beans to a very high temperature. This temperature is in the range of 437 to 473 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is in comparison to light and medium roast coffees, which are green coffee beans that have been roasted to temperatures between 385 and 437 degrees Fahrenheit.
Texture, Density, and Color of Dark Roast Coffee
Dark roast coffee beans are typically medium-dark brown to very dark brown or black in appearance. They will typically have the strong smell of a roast or caramelization. Unlike light or medium roast coffee beans, dark roast coffee beans are oily to the touch (and not dry) and shiny.
Unlike light roast coffee beans, dark roast coffee beans are contracted in size. They are less dense than light or medium roast coffee beans.
Caffeine Levels of Dark Roast Coffee
There is not a substantial difference in caffeine levels between light, medium, and dark roast coffee beans. That said, light roast coffee beans will have slightly more caffeine than dark roast coffee beans.
If measured by volume (say, cups, or scoops, of ground coffee), light roast coffee will have more caffeine per unit measure than dark roast coffees. This owes to the relatively higher density of light roast coffee when compared to dark roast coffees.
However, if measured by weight, dark roast coffees will have slightly more caffeine than light roast coffees. Again, though, this difference is not really significant.
All green coffees contain a certain percentage (about 15 – 20%, or more) of volatile acids including propionic acid, acetic acid, and pentanoic acid. These acids are very much present in green and light roast coffee beans but gradually burn off as the length and the temperature of the roasting process continues.
For this reason, dark roast coffees have low acidity and are higher in carbon. They initially undergo a Maillard reaction, and this continues to further caramelization as roasting goes on.
Types Of Dark Roast Coffees
There are many types of dark roast coffees, including:
• Vienna Roast – prepared at 446 degrees Fahrenheit, a medium-dark color coffee bean with light oily surfaces,
• French Roast – prepared at 464 degrees Fahrenheit, a solidly dark brown coffee bean with a shiny oil surface, and
• Italian Roast – prepared at 473 degrees Fahrenheit, almost completely black, and shiny with oil.
Other names for dark roast coffee include Spanish roast, New Orleans roast, Continental roast, and Espresso roast. These names may be interchangeable but generally refer to very dark roasted coffee. These varieties are also ones typically used in specialty drinks.
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How Is Dark Roast Coffee Produced?
Dark coffee is produced by roasting green coffee beans at very high temperatures.
Coffee plants, such as Arabica and Robusta, bear fruit referred to as cherries or berries. The seeds of this fruit are called coffee beans — not because they are beans, but because they resemble them.
Green coffee beans are the result of raw coffee beans that have had their fruit and mucilage removed through either wet or dry processing.
Once this processing is completed, the green coffee beans are ready to be roasted. They are sorted for debris and placed into a roasting machine.
At 385 degrees Fahrenheit, the coffee beans make an audible cracking sound known as the “first crack.” This results from water moisture evaporating from the beans — and the beans themselves starting to expand. This is around the temperature that light roast coffees are produced.
Medium roast coffee is produced at temperatures between 410 and 437 degrees Fahrenheit, with the darkest of medium roasts reflecting the characteristics of dark roast coffee.
At 437 degrees Fahrenheit, the coffee beans make another cracking sound, called the “second crack.” This is the result of the coffee beans beginning to contract and shrink. At this point (and temperatures beyond this point), dark roast coffees are produced.
The coffee beans are then cooled and packaged — and ready for grinding, brewing, and processing into flavored coffee drinks.
What Does Dark Roast Coffee Taste Like?
Dark roast coffees taste a little more bittersweet than other kinds of coffee roasts. They thoroughly taste roasted caramelization, and the darker the Roast, the more bitter the coffee is likely to taste.
Dark roast coffees are likely to have most if not all of their acidity burned off — therefore, they do not have an acrid taste like light roast coffees may have. Also, the type of coffee cultivar or region is near indistinguishable in dark roast coffees due to the roasting period’s length and intensity.
The lighter dark roast coffees are more likely to have a full body and be more “balanced” than that darker dark roast coffees. As the processing passes the “second crack”, dark roast coffees’ body starts to thin.
Is Dark Roast Coffee Less Bitter?
Dark roast coffee is generally more bitter than light or medium roast coffees. In general, The darker the roast, typically the more bitter it tends to be.
This, however, can depend on preparation – as coffee prepared with a higher coffee-to-water ratio will result in more bitterness than that of coffees with lower coffee-to-water ratios.
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Dark roast coffees are known for their bittersweet flavors and readiness for specialty drinks. The roasting process brings out the complex caramel flavors of dark roast coffee and gives it a smoky, richly roasted flavor. For these reasons, dark roast coffees are excellent for those interested in enjoying the full flavors coffee roasting offers.
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